The Victorian, New South Wales and Queensland governments have released the Terms of Reference for their broad scale review of NAPLAN and standardised testing of school students.
The review will identify what a standardised testing regime in Australian schools should deliver, assess how well NAPLAN achieves this, and identify short and longer-term improvements that can be made. The review will also look at whether the testing should continue in its current form.
“NAPLAN has been in place for more than decade – it is common sense to review it and see what changes we should make to ensure it is meeting the needs of schools, parents and students,” said Victorian Education Minister James Merlino.
The review will consider whether NAPLAN is meeting the needs of governments, schools, parents and students, including how accurate and appropriate the test is, whether the right year levels are being tested and how well the test assesses student and system performance over time.
The review will draw on evidence from international assessment programs and other recent reviews of NAPLAN to identify best practice and inform the review’s recommendations. A panel of education experts will lead the review including Emeritus Professor Barry McGaw, Professor Claire Wyatt-Smith and Emeritus Professor William Louden.
The panel will present their interim findings and immediate improvements to Education Council in December 2019, with a final report issued in 2020. A full list of the terms of reference can be viewed by clicking here.
“The review may lead to significant change or it may recommend scrapping NAPLAN all together and replacing it with something new,” added Minister Merlino, “but we will always need some form of standardised testing.”
Though many experts have welcomed the release of the terms of reference for the NAPLAN review, some have stated that major changes would be needed to restore faith in testing.
Associate Professor Ian Hardy from the University of Queensland is an expert on education policy. He co-convenes the Australian Association for Research in Education’s Special Interest Group on Politics and Policy in Education and has conducted research on NAPLAN. In his view, policy makers must make a concerted effort to avoid repeating the mistakes that have caused issues for NAPLAN.
“The terms of reference gesture towards the possibility that such tests may be potentially beneficial in relation to individual student learning achievement and growth, and to inform the work of schools and parents. But the simultaneous focus upon systemic accountability and performance management processes, as well as the use of such tests to inform various national, state and territory programs and policies, hint at a risk of trying to achieve too much through a testing mechanism that may not be designed to cover such an array of demands,” he said.
“There is a risk that any new testing regime may repeat many of the errors of the past, particularly if accountability demands and processes outweigh the educative intent of such tests.”
Associate Professor Jihyun Lee of UNSW Sydney, an expert on large-scale international and national assessment and educational measurement, including NAPLAN, added, “If NAPLAN continues to be treated as a tool to benefit individual student achievement, it is unlikely that the review itself will change the current public views about its effectiveness,” she said. “It is only a single measure per year level, which cannot appropriately address a wide range of student learning disposition and abilities.”